Currently reading, listening and playing
I love reading and this year I’ve deliberately decided to read more books by non-male/non-white authors. This simple decision has (unsurprisingly) opened up a lot of new perspectives to me – some books I enjoyed this year:
- Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
- The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
- We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran Foer
- Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Pérez
- Change Everything: Creating an Economy for the Common Good by Christian Felber
- Brave New Work by Aaron Dignan
- It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work by Basecamp
- How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell
- Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
- Circe and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
- Gutenberg's Apprentice by Alix Christie
I am currently reading:
- Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch
- You Look Like a Thing and I Love You: How Artificial Intelligence Works and Why It's Making the World a Weirder Place by Janelle Shane
- This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
I also run a book club in Berlin – join us on Meetup.com!
Apart from books I listen to MANY podcasts, basically whenever I have a free minute, because it’s such a wonderfully intimate medium. Favorites include Feminist Frequency Radio, Heavyweight, The Europeans, Science Vs, Should This Exist?, Longform and a few obscure ones focused on crypto currencies.
I grew up with Nintendo consoles and while I play a lot less these days, I do enjoy the occasional gaming session and nerding out about all the Zelda titles. Currently I’m slowly making my way through Link’s Awakening on the Switch and I’m always ready for a round of Super Smash Bros: 10 stock, Temple, get ready, FALCON PUNCH!
Understanding (my) privilege
Over the past years I’ve been on a journey to understand my own privilege better … having grown up as the stereotypical white tech dude, it took me a while to see how toxic our industry really is to women, people of color and other underrepresented groups. I strongly believe that diversity makes us stronger and that privilege is a responsibility, so every day I try to uplift others, call out typical situations and use more inclusive language. As an employer I try to steer our culture towards more openness and inclusivity, while hiring an ever more diverse team. I also watch my own behavior more closely to uncover more of my own hidden biases, to be able to question them, hopefully becoming a better human being.
Remote work and workplace flexibility
I am working hard to introduce more possibilities for remote work at our company – this push was started by one employee announcing to move abroad. He now works fully remotely with us and we’re improving our processes to become more asynchronous and remote-friendly. This push has also opened up more possibilities to work from home and at any given day we now have a couple of people not working from the office.
While I am definitely an in-office person myself, it’s wonderful to see that our workplace becomes more compatible with different lifestyles. Now that I’m fully immersed in the topic, I’ve come to think that not enabling remote work / extended home office is a form of workplace discrimination, favoring employees who are more extroverted, more flexible, younger, richer, have no children, no pets and few other responsibilities. I strive to make a peaceful co-existance between work and personal life possible for all employees – more flexibility regarding when and where you work is big part of that.
The climate crisis: how to take action and live more sustainably
I am afraid millennials will go down in history as the narcissistic generation which cared more about their appearance on Instagram than preventing an unfolding climate catastrophy when we still had time. Now Gen Z (or the Zoomers?) are picking up our slack and I find that hugely inspiring, jolting me out of my passivity. Still, I haven’t found my way of actively participating, apart from making more conscious choices in my private life. I try to eliminate single-use plastics, been a vegetarian for half my life (and mostly vegan for several years), take the train instead of planes whenever possible and try to buy local as well as organic. Still it feels like that’s not enough and I need to become more involved.
Being a responsible capitalist
I was brought up in a very left-leaning household and I am instinctively critical of capitalism … which is also connected to the last paragraph about the climate crisis. So far the climate protests have been focused on environmental topics, but ultimately they will (must? have?) become a highly political movement, because late-stage capitalism is fundamentally at war with the planet: An economic system focused on GDP, exploitation and a growing social divide can’t be sustainable and we need a departure from the growth mindset – where to? That’s where it gets tricky.
Being an employer myself this is a bit of a complicated opinion to have, but I try to steer our company into a direction that doesn’t feel late-stage-capitalistic … moving our goals from profit to well-being, paying good salaries, treating everyone with respect, enabling lots of flexibility for different lifestyles and removing hierarchy where possible.
Bitcoin and the DeFi movement
Yes, the libertarian culture around Bitcoin is incredibly toxic; yes, it is very volatile; and yes, it consumes a lot of energy. Nonetheless I find Bitcoin to be an interesting phenomenon because of its decentralized nature and because it poses a very fundamental question: What is money? For the last two years I’ve been going down the rabbit hole, learning about decentralized finance and economics in general. I am still putting all the pieces together, but I am happy that Bitcoin gave me a lens through which to look at the global financial system, different kinds of money, to learn about Austrian economics and the gold standard, to consider individual sovereignty and libertarianism. Do I subscribe to any of these ideologies personally or do I want Bitcoin to become the world’s global currency? Absolutely the hell not. Nonetheless I find it very fascinating.
Tech: Ambient computing
Initially I was very skeptical of smart assistants (Alexa, Google Assistant) because of privacy concerns, but when I tried them in my own home, convenience won over. I find the term “ambient computing” quite apt, as it feels very seamless and futuristic when the whole room becomes the interface – no screens, no buttons, just your voice. Using Alexa to set timers, control lights, listen to music and news is undeniably frictionless. It also feels very calm and unintrusive (ironically of course, because these devices are the most intrusive you can put in your home). I’m reluctantly a fan.
Will this be the next paradigm shift when it comes to user interfaces? Probably not, but having the option to talk to machines is quickly becoming normal.
Tech: Virtual reality
Virtual reality headsets were a similar story for me … I had tried them a few times, but these devices always felt super isolating and socially not acceptable. My main barrier was needing a gaming PC (which I don’t have) and all the wires, cameras, etc. Earlier this year I felt the need to understand the medium better, so I got myself an Oculus Quest (it’s a standalone headset, no PC needed) and it entirely changed my opinion. VR can be very social (try Half & Half and Bigscreen) and it can enable incredibly personal, empathetic experiences (try Notes on Blindness, Mission: ISS or Traveling While Black). While I enjoy the immersion and picking up a Nintendo Switch suddenly feels very outdated, there is a certain unease about fully escaping into the digital realm, in a time when the real world needs our attention more than ever.
Let’s have a chat!
Are you digging into any of these topics as well? Maybe we should meet up and exchange ideas. → Say hello!